One section of International Business Law 303 will offer some St. Thomas business students the opportunity to negotiate a mock business contract with German students from Fachhochschule Trier during a four-day span in May.
Susan Marsnik, who teaches the semester course, said the reverse-study abroad program, where St. Thomas hosts the international students, is a valuable hands-on experience for students.
“Particularly in an international setting, the laws can be different, the culture is certainly different, the orientation to the negotiation process is different,” Marsnik said. “What makes this really fabulous is that you don’t have to talk about the theory of cross-cultural negotiations. They’re negotiating with German students.”
Marsnik said in an email that the St. Thomas students will receive time off over the course of the semester that will equal the time they will spend on site visits and in class when the German students are on campus.
Along with the real-world experience, the students will have class together, participate in social events like a business dinner and visit international corporations in the Twin Cities.
“We try to pick local businesses that have some relation to the topic of the project,” Marsnik said, “so that the students can meet local business people, find out what some of the business issues are and how they relate.”
Senior Jessica Wilson registered for the class, and said she is looking forward to expanding her cultural understanding.
“I have a passion for international business in general,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be exciting for me to ask them questions about what are the differences between Germany and here and be able to answer questions for them.”
Senior Muhdi Sharif said as an international business major, he hopes to increase global awareness about the laws in different countries through this class.
“I thought it would a unique opportunity,” Sharif said. “I did study abroad before … and now to see the roles reversed would be a neat thing to be a part of.”
Marnik said registration for the course is capped at about 12 students and it is full with a waiting list.
“It has to be small because it’s very expensive for the German students to come over,” Marnik said. “When we’re going on the site visits, you can’t bring 50 students into a lot of places.”
This is not the first time this program has been offered at the university. St. Thomas Masters of Business Administration candidates have traveled to Germany with Marsnik several times before, and German students visited Minnesota in the spring of 2007.
“If things happen the way they did last time, that group bonded,” Marsnik said.
Wilson said she is no stranger to an international experience and is looking forward to learning about a different culture again.
“I’ve studied abroad twice, and I know what that feeling is like to go to another country,” Wilson said. “I’m excited to do it my last semester as a senior because it will be like nostalgia of studying abroad.”
Marsnik said she thinks the learning experience will prepare students for their business futures.
“The first international distribution agreement I ever did was so bad … I don’t want that to happen to any student,” Marsnik said. “I’d rather have them make the big mistakes in class than out in their first job.”
Baihly Warfield can be reached at email@example.com.